Have you ever beheld a huge tangle of yarn or string, wondered where to start the untangling, paused to consider whether untangling the mass was even possible or worth the effort, and then patiently and methodically begun the process? If so, you now know how I have felt for the past several decades. At some level in my psyche, I’ve recognized the tangle of trauma-skewed thoughts and emotions inside my head, felt like giving up before I’ve even begun the work of untangling, and then have decided, finally, to do the work. All this only after deciding that I was worth enough as a human being to warrant expending the effort and the resources.

You, the reader, may wonder why anyone would hesitate to make the commitment to heal. For the most part, in our culture people assume that anyone who has a health issue, mental or physical, wants to cure the problem or at least find some degree of relief. I, in fact, have a difficult time understanding anyone’s hesitation to make this commitment. What I do not have a difficult time understanding is my own hesitation to make the commitment. This inability to perceive myself as being worthy of receiving help from anyone or from myself, even, is but one marker or symptom of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)—one marker of many.

As I continue my work with a clinical psychologist trained to help people recover from trauma damage, I seem to uncover new C-PTSD markers in myself every week. Now I’m wondering when these discoveries will end. Will they? I don’t know. Some days the whole process of therapy seems overwhelming. When will it end? Or will it even end before I die? When will all the signs have revealed themselves? If I don’t know what the sign or symptom is, how can I do the work necessary to bring about change? In this process, there are just too many unknowns for comfort! And there are too many pieces of yarn that look like they will lead to the center but in reality lead only to other, possibly related but not tightly connected, loose strands. No strand leads to the heart of the tangle, or so it appears.

Why do I even continue in this seemingly unending process? After all, I’m seventy-two years old. I’ve lived with this mess in my head for that many years, so why don’t I just stop now and try to relax and enjoy the relatively few years I have left? My answer: I’m not a quitter, and I’ve learned enough and have come far enough in the process to know that there are greener pastures and better times ahead if I stay with the process and try to finish. With each insight and bit of understanding, my inner world becomes brighter, and I feel closer to those greener pastures and better times.

Remember the old slide shows? Remember how, when one slide was being shifted to the next, there was a momentary dark and blurry space, just a split second of time, before that next slide popped into focus? That’s what this process is like. It’s like a slide show of what might be, the future, with each slide brighter, sharper, and more colorful than the one before it, but always there is the space, the dark and blurry space between slides, the split second when life is out of focus and one wonders if it will ever snap back into focus. Then, when the next sharp, colorful, beautiful slide pops onto the screen, the dark, blurry moment is gone and almost forgotten.

As I write this, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke comes to mind, his image-packed “Das Karussell.” As in a slide show, the figures on the carousel are bright and sharp momentarily but blur as the speed picks up, snapping into focus now and then, long enough to offer proof of their existence. I don’t know if Rilke spent any time in therapy, but this poem is an apt metaphor for the therapeutic process and for life, itself. I’m presenting the poem in its original German as Rilke wrote it to preserve the imagery and sense of time and motion. If you are unfamiliar with this poem, the focal point of the poem is “und dann und wann ein weisser Elefant.” (and now and then a white elephant). As the speed of the carousel increases, the amount of text between repetitions of this phrase decreases. For more of Rilke’s poetry, here is a site: http://www.poemhunter.com/rainer-maria-rilke/

“Das Karussell”
Jardin du Luxembourg

Mit einem Dach und seinem Schatten dreht
sich eine kleine Weile der Bestand
von bunten Pferden, alle aus dem Land,
das lange zögert, eh es untergeht.
Zwar manche sind an Wagen angespannt,
doch alle haben Mut in ihren Mienen;
ein böser roter Löwe geht mit ihnen
und dann und wann ein weißer Elefant.

Sogar ein Hirsch ist da, ganz wie im Wald,
nur dass er einen Sattel trägt und drüber
ein kleines blaues Mädchen aufgeschnallt.

Und auf dem Löwen reitet weiß ein Junge
und hält sich mit der kleinen heißen Hand
dieweil der Löwe Zähne zeigt und Zunge.

Und dann und wann ein weißer Elefant.

Und auf den Pferden kommen sie vorüber,
auch Mädchen, helle, diesem Pferdesprunge
fast schon entwachsen; mitten in dem Schwunge
schauen sie auf, irgendwohin, herüber –

Und dann und wann ein weißer Elefant.

Und das geht hin und eilt sich, dass es endet,
und kreist und dreht sich nur und hat kein Ziel.
Ein Rot, ein Grün, ein Grau vorbeigesendet,
ein kleines kaum begonnenes Profil -.
Und manchesmal ein Lächeln, hergewendet,
ein seliges, das blendet und verschwendet
an dieses atemlose blinde Spiel. . .
Rainer Maria Rilke, Juni 1906, Paris

Below is a translation, not a perfect translation but better than  most, that I found at this site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sisifos/2799526225/

The Merry-Go-Round
Jardin du Luxemburg

With roof and shadow for a while careers
the stud of horses, variously bright,
all from that land that hesitantly lingers
before it ultimately disappears.
Several indeed pull carriages, with tight-held
rein, but all have boldness in their bearing;
With them a wicked scarlet lion’s faring

And now and then an elephant all white.

As in the woods, a stag comes into view,
save that it has a saddle and
thereon a little girl sits all in blue.
And on the lion rides a little boy,
whose small hot hands hold on with all his might,
the while the lion shows his teeth and tongue.

And now and then an elephant all white.

And on the horses swiftly riding past
are shining girls, who nearly have outgrown
this play. They let their eyes glance here
and there and near and far away.

And now and then an elephant all white.

And on it goes and hastens to be ended,
and aimlessly rotates until it’s done.
A red, a green, a gray is apprehended,
a little profile, scarcely yet begun.

And now and then a smile, for us intended
blissfully happy, dazzlingly expended
upon this breathless, blindly followed game.